Gulf War resisters face death penalty


Three United States GIs who resisted the Gulf War are facing the death penalty at the hands of military courts. Of some 2500 GIs who resisted participation in operation Desert Storm, Erik Larsen, Kevin Sparrock and Corporal Tahan Jones have been charged with desertion in time of war. Sparrock's offence was to report for duty eight hours late.

Another 18 GI resisters are imprisoned on plea-bargained sentences of up to two years at Camp LeJeune. They are being held in isolation and denied access to lawyers, witnesses, financial resources and families.

Jones, one of the most outspoken resisters, turned himself in to the Marine Corps in San Francisco on May 15. While he was immediately charged with desertion in time of war, he was not informed of this until 24 hours later, when his lawyer applied for access.

The earlier arrest of Erik Larsen caused a nationwide outcry when he was paraded before television cameras in handcuffs and restraining belt.

The marines have since held two hearings on Larsen's case in the absence of his lawyer, and military judge Major J.F. Blanche has rejected Larsen's request to call 24 defence witnesses.

Protests against the treatment of the resisters include a letter to President Bush signed by 33 Catholic bishops supporting conscientious objection on both religious and selective grounds.

Observers have been shocked by the military authorities' treatment of the resisters. The recent case of Sam Lwin was so crudely conducted that the military court was embarrassed into imposing a relatively light sentence of dishonourable discharge and four months in military prison, with 36 days deducted for previous illegal imprisonment.

According to recent estimates, 1000 Iraqis died for every casualty on the side of the US-led forces. This ratio is unprecedented in modern warfare.

Amnesty International has indicated that the resisters will be classed as prisoners of conscience. The families of Jones and Larsen have formed a defence committee. Messages and donations may be sent to: Jones-Larsen Defence Committee, Box 225, 1678 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley California 94709, USA. — International Viewpoint